My Two Census

Formerly the non-partisan watchdog of the 2010 US Census, and currently an opinion blog that covers all things political, media, foreign policy, globalization, and culture…but sometimes returning to its census/demographics roots.

Posts Tagged ‘David Vitter’

Cash Cuts May Cost California Billions

Friday, November 20th, 2009

From the San Francisco Chronicle:

By Marissa Lagos

(11-16) 04:00 PST Sacramento

California has slashed the amount of money it will spend on the 2010 census, a move that experts warn could lead to a flawed count and cost the state billions in federal aid over the next decade.

Additionally, the U.S. Census Bureau – which recognized early that states wouldn’t have as much cash on hand – is redoubling its efforts. For example, in 2000, 18 census outreach workers were dedicated to the Bay Area; this year, the bureau assigned 160.

The U.S. government hands out about $400 billion to states and local jurisdictions every year based on population counts made during the nation’s decennial census. The money pays for local hospitals, schools, public housing, highways and unemployment insurance.

While the federal government pays census workers to take counts, states and local governments spend money on census outreach efforts to stress to residents – particularly those who may be wary – the importance of the census.

But because of deep budget cuts in the 2009-10 California spending plan, the state has earmarked less than $2 million for 2010 census outreach, down from nearly $25 million a decade ago. The cut in state census outreach funds is a problem that federal officials said is playing out across the country.

In California, the cut means many counties, which 10 years ago received grants from the state for outreach in addition to using their own money, will get little or no state funding for 2010 census outreach. Some counties struggling with their own fiscal problems also have cut local funding for census outreach.

Undercounts costly

Sonny Le, a spokesman for the U.S. Census Bureau, said outreach is critical to ensure residents fill out the census forms that will be delivered to every home in the United States in March. Many people don’t understand the reason for filling out the form, while others are reticent to share information with the federal government.

Each uncounted resident could result in the loss of $1,000 a year in federal funding for a state, according to the nonprofit Grantmakers Concerned With Immigrants and Refugees.

Ted Wang, a census consultant working for the group, said state and local outreach efforts play a critical role in communicating with populations that historically have been difficult to count.

An undercount also could cost California a congressional seat for the first time in its 150-year history, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has said.

In 2000, 70 percent of the U.S. census forms that were sent out in California were returned – though only 58 percent were expected, said Eric Alborg, a spokesman for the California Complete Count Committee, a group formed by the governor in June to oversee the state’s census outreach.

Even with a higher-than-anticipated rate of response, Assemblyman Felipe Fuentes, D-Sylmar (Los Angeles County), estimated that California lost $2 billion to $3 billion in federal funding over the past decade because some people were not counted.

“If this year is a bad count, how many more billions could we lose?” Fuentes said.

The governor’s office defended the cuts as necessary and pointed out that in 2000 – at the height of the dot-com boom – the state was flush with cash.

‘Hard to count’ groups

“Given the breadth of the recession and the toll on state revenues, we had to make cutbacks in virtually every area,” said H.D. Palmer, a spokesman for the Department of Finance, who added that state officials recognize the importance of the count. “We’re pleased we are able to commit resources for outreach efforts to reach individuals that are hard to count.”

California is home to 10 of the nation’s 50 counties with the largest “hard to count” populations, which include people of color, young adults, immigrants and low-income residents. Alameda and San Francisco counties are among the 10 counties, topped by Los Angeles County.

People harder to find

Further compounding the challenge is the economic and political climate, experts said. The financial crisis, including the waves of foreclosures, has forced people into homelessness or nontraditional housing, making them hard to find.

Officials said some immigrant populations are expected to be even more wary of the count than usual because of an uptick in immigration raids and anti-immigrant rhetoric in recent years – including an attempt by several Republican U.S. senators to exclude undocumented residents from the count and require respondents to disclose their immigration status. The amendment was defeated, but sponsor David Vitter, R-La., has vowed to raise the issue again.

To make up for the cut in state census funds, the state is working closely with elected, religious, nonprofit, community and educational leaders to develop plans to reach out to residents and get accurate counts via the California Complete Count Committee.

The state is also developing a Web site that will offer tool kits in census outreach to community partners.

Meanwhile, some local jurisdictions are trying to bridge the gap left by state cuts. San Francisco and Santa Clara counties ponied up money in their budgets to fund local efforts. For the first time, San Francisco created a “complete count committee,” which includes community, business, labor and nonprofit leaders to help with outreach.

Still, serious challenges lie ahead, says Adrienne Pon, who is leading San Francisco’s efforts.

“There are no (state) funds this time around, and populations are more dispersed and diverse … (so) we’re trying to be more street smart and direct outreach mobilization efforts,” she said. The largely African American Bayview-Hunters Point “had the lowest rate of return in 2000. We know of eight neighborhoods like that one which we are targeting.”

No citizenship question on Census form

Thursday, November 5th, 2009

The 2010 Census will count all people living in the United States, including immigrants who are not citizens.

Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) proposed an amendement last month that would have required the Census Bureau to ask whether people were in the country illegally, and would have excluded illegal immigrants from the population counts.

Senate Democrats blocked the proposal this afternoon in a 60-39 vote. More from the AP:

WASHINGTON — Senate Democrats Thursday blocked a GOP attempt to require next year’s census forms to ask people whether they are U.S. citizens.

The proposal by Louisiana Republican Sen. David Vitter was aimed at excluding immigrants from the population totals that are used to figure the number of congressional representatives for each state. Critics said Vitter’s plan would discourage immigrants from responding to the census and would be hugely expensive. They also said that it’s long been settled law that the apportionment of congressional seats is determined by the number of people living in each state, regardless of whether they are citizens. A separate survey already collects the data.

Census data is also used to distribute billions of dollars in federal aid.

“The current plan is to reapportion House seats using that overall number, citizens and noncitizens,” Vitter said. “I think that’s wrong. I think that’s contrary to the whole intent of the Constitution and the establishment of Congress as a democratic institution to represent citizens.”

If Vitter were successful — and if noncitizens were excluded from the census count for congressional apportionment — states with fewer immigrants would fare significantly better in the upcoming allocation of House seats.

State such as California and Texas would fare worse than they would under the current way of allocating seats, which under the Constitution is based on the “whole number of persons” residing in a state.

NYT Editorial: How to Waste Money and Ruin the Census

Tuesday, October 20th, 2009

The following comes from the venerable New York Times:

Published: October 19, 2009

With the start of the 2010 census just a few months away, Senator David Vitter, a Republican of Louisiana, wants to cut off financing for the count unless the survey includes a question asking if the respondent is a United States citizen. Aides say he plans to submit an amendment to the census appropriation bill soon.

As required by law, the Census Bureau gave Congress the exact wording of the survey’s 10 questions in early April 2008 — more than 18 months ago. Changing it now to meet Mr. Vitter’s demand would delay the count, could skew the results and would certainly make it even harder to persuade minorities to participate.

It would also be hugely expensive. The Commerce Department says that redoing the survey would cost hundreds of millions of dollars: to rewrite and reprint hundreds of millions of census forms, to revise instructional and promotional material and to reprogram software and scanners.

During debates in the Senate, Mr. Vitter said that his aim is to exclude noncitizens from population totals that are used to determine the number of Congressional representatives from each state. He is ignoring the fact that it is a settled matter of law that the Constitution requires the census to count everyone in the country, without regard to citizenship, and that those totals are used to determine the number of representatives.

(The Census Bureau already tracks the number of citizens and noncitizens through a separate survey.)

Adding a new question about citizenship would further ratchet up suspicions that the census is being used to target undocumented immigrants. That would discourage participation not only among people who are here illegally but also their families and friends who may be citizens and legal residents. That leads to an inaccurate count.

And since census numbers are also used to allocate federal aid, undercounting minorities shortchanges the cities and states where they live.

Advocates for the census say that Senator Orrin Hatch, a Republican of Utah, has also raised the idea of another bad, last-minute change. Under current practice, the only people living abroad included in the census are military personnel and federal civilian employees, and the families of both, stationed overseas. Mr. Hatch, these officials say, wants to include certain other Americans living abroad temporarily, a definition that would be tailored to include — you guessed it — Mormon missionaries.

There seems little doubt that the goal would be to increase population numbers for Utah — to try to garner another Congressional seat. As of Monday, Senator Hatch’s office would not say whether he plans to pursue the idea. He shouldn’t.

Both of these changes would be discriminatory and ridiculously expensive. If Mr. Vitter and Mr. Hatch wanted to argue their cases, they should have done it 18 months ago — or wait until after this count.

Changing the survey now would be a disaster for the census and for American taxpayers. The Senate should defeat any and all attempts to alter or delay the 2010 count.

Senators try to exclude illegal immigrants from 2010 Census

Wednesday, October 14th, 2009

Sen. David Vitter of Louisiana is not a fan of the 2010 Census. MyTwoCensus does not support the proposed amendment that is discussed below. H/t to Haya El Nasser of USA Today for the following story:

A controversial amendment that would require the Census Bureau to ask for the first time whether people are in the USA illegally is headed for a Senate vote Wednesday.

Proposed last week by Republican Sens.David Vitter of Louisiana and Bob Bennett ofUtah, the amendment would exclude illegal immigrants from the population count used to allocate congressional seats after the 2010 Census. It also would require the Census to ask people whether they are citizens.

“Illegal aliens should not be included for the purposes of determining representation in Congress, and that’s the bottom line here,” Vitter says. If enacted, the amendment to an appropriations bill would stop funding of the 2010 Census unless the changes are made.

The amendment comes less than six months before 2010 Census questionnaires are mailed to 135 million households. About 425 million forms have already been printed, according to the bureau. Some are in different languages; others are duplicates that will go to houses that do not respond to the first mailing.

Update: Press Release from Sen. David Vitter’s Office

Monday, July 13th, 2009

SenatorVitter

For Immediate Release Contact: Joel DiGrado

July 13, 2009                                                               (202) 224-4623

Vitter Issues Statement on Groves Confirmation Vote

(Washington, D.C.) – U.S. Sen. David Vitter issued the following statement following Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s move to override Vitter’s hold on the nomination of Robert Groves to be the next U.S. Census Director.

“I have some serious concerns with Mr. Groves’ confirmation to be Census Director, and that’s why I placed a hold on his nomination.  Specifically, I wanted some written assurances from President Obama and his administration that sampling would not be used in the census taking process and that ACORN will have nothing to do with the census.  I’ve been trying to have a dialogue with the White House to help me address those two concerns, but they were unwilling to make those commitments,” said Vitter.

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FYI: Groves’ Senate vote at 5:30pm EST this evening

Monday, July 13th, 2009

MyTwoCensus just received word that Census Director-To-Be Robert M. Groves’ Senate confirmation vote is tentatively scheduled for 5:30pm EST this evening. Clearly this is dependent on Sonia Sotomayor’s hearing ending on time (it starts at 10am)…stay tuned for updates!